Man kissing his pregnant wife's belly and holding it with his hand
Illustration by Marta Pucci

How Your Sex Life Changes After Children

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness

If you're a new parent, you've likely noticed a large amount of changes in your relationship with your partner. Some of these can be positive changes, like watching your child discover the world for the first time. Others aren't so great, such as long conversations being replaced by getting sleep whenever you can. There's also one overlooked change that can really strain your marriage: a lack of sex.

For a plethora of reasons, many couples see their sex life in marriage take a drastic turn for the worse once their family grows from two to three or more. Part of that can be explained by hormones, but that's far from the only reason for a parent's low sex drive. Unfortunately, most parents are either too busy to have that discussion with their partner, or they dismiss the thought from their minds because they're too focused on other important things.

But sex and intimacy are an important part of a healthy marriage, and if these feelings are allowed to lie dormant for too long, it can be very difficult to rekindle them when both partners have more time to dedicate to themselves. If any of these issues sound familiar to you, you should know that you're far from alone.

Changes in hormones

Let's get this out of the way first: it is completely normal to be totally disinterested in sex for the first several months after your baby is born. That's because both partners are experiencing new hormones for the first time, making it easier to focus on putting their new baby's needs ahead of their own. Our bodies are biologically hardwired to take care of our offspring, which means estrogen and testosterone are going to be at their lowest right after a birth.

For women, that means that sex can be painful, and that's before you include what a new mother just went through to bring her baby into the world. The majority of women will need a full nine months to recover from pregnancy before they feel physically ready for sexual activity, which can lead to conflicts if the male partner finds himself seeking intimacy while the female partner is still suffering from a loss of libido.

Changes in schedules

Hormone changes are a big deal, but in most cases, they're out of the way within a year postpartum. That's not the case with changes in the amount of time available to both partners, which can be a long-term change and can even be permanent. For example, if the family has decided that one parent's income will support the family, the partner who's working might have a low sex drive simply because they have to make sure that they've got money coming in to support all three members of the family.

At the same time, a partner who chooses to stay home with the baby can find themselves losing interest in their sex life because they simply spend all day worrying about their child. When your mind is constantly on protecting your offspring, it's hard to allow sexual feelings to enter your mind, leading to a lack of sex simply because of a lack of time and interest. Unfortunately, one partner is constantly thinking about their child and the other is worried about their physical and emotional needs in the marriage, relationships can become severely strained.

Changes in environment

There's no other way to say this: your life changes completely when you have a child, and these changes are usually permanent. For example, once a child is born, you no longer have to worry about only two schedules when you're looking to sneak away for some intimacy for a few minutes. Couples without children don't have to worry about someone else coming in and asking to sleep in between the sheets while they explore their sex life in marriage, and they don't have to plan ahead for childcare arrangements when planning a romantic getaway.

Unlike hormone changes that fade in a few months, these changes are long-term and will persist for most of the next two decades or longer. Over time, that can really start to weigh a relationship down unless you take the time to discuss the situation with your partner. The best way for you to both remain fulfilled is to be clear about your sexual needs, while understanding that your new living situation requires you to be more flexible than you were before becoming parents.

Change in emotions

This can be one of the biggest long-term changes that least to a lack of sex in a marriage: one or more partners start to get the feelings that a healthy sexual relationship provides in sources outside their sexual relationship with each other. It's important to know that this doesn't always mean cheating; in fact, it usually has nothing to do with another adult.

Usually, it's the new child that's the culprit, because many parents redirect the most enjoyable parts of their personality to their relationship with their baby. Esther Perel calls this "eros redirected", and this phenomenon describes a parent transferring playfulness and physical intimacy to their children while forgetting the needs of their adult partner.

The problem is that the neglected partner usually doesn't feel comfortable bringing up these changes, which can lead to resentment. Instead of the new baby bringing love, happiness and fulfillment to the family, one partner often feels left out, sometimes feeling like they have to compete with their child for attention from their partner. Many adults see that as both an uncomfortable and embarrassing thing to admit, so instead of getting these feelings out into the open, they're often allowed to linger, leading to resentment, a lack of communication and a sex life in marriage that's anything but fulfilling.

Having a child can be a truly rewarding experience, but there's no denying that it can lead to a long-term lack of sex if a couple isn't careful about managing their feelings of intimacy. Before you fall into the trap of a parent's low sex drive, it's a good idea to talk to your partner about your changing sexual needs in your marriage. A bit of communication can encourage both a healthy family life and a healthy sex life in marriage.

If you feel ready to get back in touch with sex again, check out how with the Blueheart app here.

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